Pro-Kurdish HDP’s jailed co-chair Demirtaş: Turkish judiciary running away from me

Selahattin Demirtaş.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) jailed Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş has harshly criticized the judicial process in Turkey and wrote on his official Twitter account via his lawyers on Thursday that “I was imprisoned because of accusations that I was running away from the judiciary. But for the last 13 months, the judiciary has been running away from me.”

The comments of Demirtaş, who has condemned the 399-day gap between his imprisonment and the first hearing of his case, came after the first hearing of his case, which took place in the Ankara 19th High Criminal Court without his attendance.

Demirtaş, who is currently being held in Edirne Prison in the northwestern province of Edirne, had repeatedly demanded to attend the hearing in person. The court rejected his demands citing “security reasons.” After Demirtaş refused to participate in the first hearing of his case via an audio-visual system, his lawyers on Thursday demanded that the issue be referred to the Constitutional Court.

Demirtaş and nine other HDP lawmakers were arrested on Nov. 4, 2016 on the grounds that they failed to show up to give their testimony to prosecutors after they were accused of terror charges based on alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The prosecutor’s indictment, which was not ready until February 2017, accused Demirtaş of “leading a terrorist organization,” “campaigning for a terrorist organization” and “inciting hate in public,” with possible prison sentences ranging from 42 to over 100 years.

At the first hearing 13 months after his arrest, the case was adjourned to February 2018. The court also ruled to keep Demirtaş in jail throughout the trial due to “a strong suspicion of criminal leadership” and the “nature of the offence,” which “necessitates imprisonment.”

His lawyers objected to both the indictment and his imprisonment, stressing that the case depended on 31 summary proceedings, all of which target Demirtaş’ public speeches as a politician. “The judiciary was already in a pathetic condition. But now even that judiciary no longer exists. On the buildings of Justice Palaces [Turkish courthouses] the word ‘justice’ has been scrubbed off and only the word ‘palace’ is left,” Demirtaş said, blasting the influence of the presidential office on Turkey’s judiciary.

“Those who commit these crimes will one day be held accountable before the public. Their pandering to the palace will go down in the history books as a disgrace,” he added.

“JUSTICE CANNONT BE DONE BEHIND CLOSED DOORS”

Meanwhile, the international observers delegation that was denied permission to attend the hearings in Ankara of Demirtaş and HDP’s former co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ on December 6-7, 2017, released a statement regarding their denial of the right to watch the hearings.“The conditions within which the hearings are being held are also in our view a great cause for concern,” said the statement an continued as follow:

“Whereas as the hearings should have been held within the Ankara regional court, they were moved to the specially built court house within the Sincan High  Security Prison Complex, the  location of which is remote without any proper public access. The complex is surrounded with tall barbedwired gates, and armed riot police. The public is under constant intimidation, with the threat of water cannons and constant video recording by police officers.

“The basic principles of the rule of law require that it is not for the ruling elite or political institutions that change within the conjectural dynamics of a country that should dictate what is an offence or not but rather that this is set within statutes and constitutions. Accordingly, whilst an alleged act cannot be regarded as a crime without there being statutory backing, it is equally unacceptable that alleged offences, which are in fact guaranteed as rights and freedoms under the constitution cannot be regarded as evidence of membership to a ‘terror’ or ‘illegal’ organisation.

“We as the international observers delegation have been denied the right to watch the hearings that have taken place over the past two days. Justice cannot be done behind closed doors. It must also be seen to be done. We feel therefore that the conditions within which the hearings were conducted, our arbitrary denial of access to the hearings, and general disregard to basic legal principles and norms removes these proceedings from the remit of fairness and places them firmly within the framework of politically motivated show trials, without any regard for the rule of law. In the midst of a broken judicial system, we are deeply concerned that the ability of the co-chairs to have fair trial is simply not possible under these conditions.”

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